May 2008 Archives

NCLB's testing rules have come under criticism from in Education Week's commentary page, during prime-time, and on the campaign trail. But it's still unclear to me what an alternative testing program would be like. Would it be able to deliver results that can be compared across schools? Would it yield consistent results from one year to the next? Would its content cover a range of topics across the curriculum? If, like me, you're wondering about these issues, you may want to log into a live Web event today. In it, the Coalition of Essential Schools will demonstrate and explain the ...


Sen. Barack Obama didn't add much new to his plans for NCLB in his education speech near Denver yesterday. He says he'd improve the quality of testing, give schools the money they'd need to achieve the law's goals, and create incentives for teachers to work where they are most needed. In one interesting aside, he said standardized tests should still be given in the school. Otherwise, his comments repeated what he has said before in various campaign events. (See entries from earlier this month, March, and February.) What struck me about the speech is that Obama promised to end the "tired...


While I was out last week, the Center on Education Policy released a report saying that about half of the states are delaying the pain for schools under NCLB. (See the edweek.org story from last week.) They've made it easy for schools to make AYP in the early years of implementation and are expecting (or just hoping?) that schools will escalate achievement gains when the goal of universal proficiency looms in 2014. BoardBuzz and Joanne Jacobs compare this "backloading" to a balloon payment on a mortgage. Back in November, Kevin Carey released a report identifying such backloading as one ...


Back in January, Rep. George Miller told me that he and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy had a plan to reauthorize NCLB by this spring. That seemed like an ambitious goal, then. Now it looks unattainable. Indeed, the prospect of the law being reauthorized in 2008 dimmed last week with the news of the Massachusetts Democrat's brain tumor. When will NCLB be reauthorized? In last week's Gadfly, Checker Finn explains the arcane legal reasons why Congress doesn't need to act soon. Eduwonk lays out a good case for 2010. Back in November, I sent BoardBuzz into a tizzy by projecting NCLB ...


Back in December, I and other bloggers entered an extended dialogue about whether NCLB's Title I does an adequate job targeting money to schools with low-income students. In that series of blog posts, Kevin Carey lauded the way NCLB shifted Title I money toward schools in the poorest communities, though he acknowledged that the formula isn't perfect. Now, he is a co-author of a new report examining school finance across federal, state, and local levels. The "basic flaw" at every level is that "money follows money," Carey writes in a post I'm sure he didn't waste half a day writing. ...


I'm at Ed in '08's blogger summit today. In that spirit, I want to comment on one NCLB issue on the campaign trail. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is spending time visiting states that will be vital for the Democratic nominee to win. In his speech in Missouri on Tuesday, Obama criticized President Bush's policies on the Iraq war, taxes, health care, and trade. He told the audience that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is "running for George Bush's third term in office" and would continue those "failed policies of the past." What he didn't mention was NCLB. Is that a slight ...


It's not a waiver, or a pilot project, or a far-reaching package of rules. But the Department of Education's recent "interpretation" of NCLB has the potential to have a significant impact on the way schools implement the law, Mary Ann Zehr reports in the current issue of Education Week. The interpretation published in the May 2 edition of the Federal Register could force states and schools to change the way they assess and classify English-language learners. The notice tells states to standardize their definitions of when a student no longer needs ELL services and the criteria they use to report ...


Does NCLB lack "bite?" When it comes to intervening in struggling schools, The Wall Street Journal says "yes." Forty percent of schools in restructuring have done very little to change, the Journal reports, quoting Mike Petrilli about "a loophole to do very little." "To solve a problem first you have to diagnose it correctly," writes Petrilli, who couldn't resist the chance to blog on the story. "And calling NCLB 'too harsh' is surely not the right diagnosis." When it comes to setting world-class standards, Paul Peterson and Rick Hess say "yes," as well. Compared with 2005, Peterson and Hess see ...


Thanks to a new guidebook from the Department of Education, here are four steps to improving chronically low-performing schools: "Signal the need for dramatic change with strong leadership ... Maintain a consistent focus on improving instruction ... Make visible improvements early in the school turnaround process (quick wins) ... [and] Build a committed staff." The panel of researchers that wrote the checklist said these are the best ideas they've found. But they warn that completing the list may not necessarily yield gains in student improvement. "The recommendations in this guide are based on a collection of case studies of low-performing schools that improved ...


You wouldn't expect Charles Murray and Richard Rothstein to agree on anything. Murray, a co-author of The Bell Curve, is a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute—the Bush administration's think tank of choice for foreign policy. Rothstein, a tilting-at-windmills researcher who has tried to debunk many assumptions behind current school reforms, is a liberal that works for the Economic Policy Institute—the labor movement's think tank of choice. But Murray, on your left, and Rothstein, on your right, agree on one thing: NCLB is bad policy. NCLB is a "a monumental mess," Murray writes in a new essay...


Here's a question I'm trying to answer: Would the rules proposed by the Department of Education make it easier or harder for schools and districts to make AYP? If you have a theory, post a comment or e-mail me....


Of all of the methods to track students' academic growth, the "value added" approach is probably the most appealing. Growth models, and possibly the value added method, will certainly play an important role in NCLB's future. But statisticians and education researchers are starting to question the value-added model's accuracy and utility for making decisions on teacher pay and other important policies. "If anybody's going to be using these things for high-stakes policy decisions, we want to add a large grain of caution here," Tim R. Sass, a Florida State University professor, tells my colleague Debra Viadero in Scrutiny Heightens for ...


The future of NCLB's Reading First program is in jeopardy. It's been a target of Democrats since they won the majority of Congress in 2007. Last week's Department of Education report is the latest strike against it. The reading comprehension of children participating in Reading First isn't growing as fast as that of children in a control group, the study says. For more, see Kathleen Kennedy Manzo's reporting. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., who controls the federal purse strings in the House, wasted no time calling the program a failure. "Previous reports have shown that a political friend of the administration ...


If you thought the Bush administration was finished putting its stamp on NCLB, think again. On Friday, the Department of Education published a new "interpretation" regarding the classification of ELL students. The proposal would standardize how each state determines when ELL students are ready to exit a program designed to serve their unique needs. My colleague Mary Ann Zehr explains over at Learning the Language....


President Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings introduced the 2008 Teacher of the Year at the White House yesterday. (See photo at right.) As usual, the president called on Congress to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. But, he added, "The good news is the act doesn't go away without reauthorization; it still exists." What he didn't mention was Reading First. Maybe he and his speech writers knew the results of the interim report on the program. You can read about the report's findings in this news story on edweek.org....


Alyson Klein attended a conference on performance pay yesterday and didn't expect to hear the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee sing a sample of a jazz standard. "You gotta give a little, take a little...." Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., serenaded attendees at the American Federation of Teachers' conference. Miller, right, gave a speech on NCLB reauthorization, which is stalled, in which he reiterated his support for including some form of performance pay in the renewed version of the law. He wasn't specific on any details, although he said any pay for performance must be developed with teachers ...


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